The Impact World this Week: 22 February 2024

Your quick guide to the news in social enterprise, impact investment and mission-driven business. This week: Danone condemned for plastic pollution, impact jargon reaches 'criminal' levels, and The Body Shop closures confirmed.

UK: The Just Transition Finance Lab, which aims to promote financial solutions that can help shift the global economy towards net-zero, launched this week. Established by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the lab will focus on designing financial instruments, metrics and strategies that can be used by financiers in the public and private sectors. It builds on the commitment within the Paris Agreement on climate change to support “a just transition” for workers and communities. Marking its launch, the lab released a report stating that “both public and private finance will need a range of new financial tools and instruments to facilitate the just transition”.

Indonesia: French consumer goods giant Danone has been found to be the producer of a quarter of all polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles littering Indonesia’s rivers, primarily through its bottled water brand, Aqua, topping a new ranking of the country's biggest plastic polluters. Also among the top 10 plastic polluters were Unilever, Nestle and Coca-Cola. The data was presented in a 2023 impact report published by Sungai Watch, a Bali-based environmental non-profit that deploys river barriers around the country to prevent plastic debris from leaking into the ocean. Aqua, which pledged in 2018 to remove more plastic from the environment than it uses by 2025, was the first Indonesian company to be awarded B Corp status by B Lab in the same year, bringing Danone a step closer to achieving B Corp certification across all its entities. Read more about Danone’s journey to becoming a B Corp here.

UK: Is the impact investing sector the worst corporate jargon user? In response to London business newspaper City AM’s ‘corporate jargon’ column, Caroline Hailstone, of the UK’s social investment wholesaler, Big Society Capital wrote in to suggest more terms for the column to explore. They included: ‘catalytic capital’, ‘enterprise level data’ and ‘social outcomes contracts’. “We are a sector that’s truly criminal for [corporate jargon],” she noted. 

Germany: Next week 50 young eco-innovators will gather with environmental experts, business leaders, investors, academics and government officials for the first ever beVisioneers Global Summit in Stuttgart, Germany. The annual summit will offer the young people the chance to showcase their solutions to the climate crisis and build their network. It is an initiative of the beVisioneers Mercedes-Benz Fellowship, a programme that provides innovators between the ages of 16 and 28 with the training, mentoring and resources to develop their planet-positive projects. Designed by The DO School Fellowships and fully funded by Mercedes-Benz, beVisioneers selects fellows based on their leadership potential and the viability of their project ideas, offering financial support to those who would otherwise be unable to participate.

UK: The Body Shop UK’s administrators at FRP Advisory confirmed this week that the retailer will close nearly half of its 198 UK stores, with seven sites across London, Bristol and Warwickshire already shut on 20 February. FRP announced that “a reduced store footprint” would help the retailer renew its focus on its “online sales channels and wholesale strategies”, enabling “a return to financial stability”. The news comes after The Body Shop announced last week that it was going into administration, a decision made by its previous owner, private equity firm Aurelius, after it faced “an extended period of financial challenges”. Aurelius bought the company just three months ago from Natura &Co. Read about how the downfall of The Body Shop, which was a pioneer in selling ethical, eco-friendly cosmetics, has garnered mixed reactions across the impact community and the general public.

Movers and shakers 

Figure of the week: US$0.5m is the amount of grant funding alongside technical support committed earlier this month by impact investor SVX Colombia to 17 impact-driven accelerators and enterprises in the second cohort of its investment readiness programme. The programme, called El Programa de Apoyo a la Inversión de Impacto en Colombia (PAIIC), aims to catalyse the impact investing market in Colombia and is funded by the Canadian government. The most recent data from Colombia’s National Advisory Board on impact investing shows there is US$473m in impact investments in Colombia.